Warning: spoilers for Supernatural, and opinions stated do not necessarily reflect the Spyglass as an organization.
With 13 seasons, 2.1 million viewers worldwide, and one of the most active fandoms on Tumblr, Supernatural is one of the biggest shows of our generation. Its cryptic themes and great humor have attracted many viewers of all ages, but especially appeals to a teenage audience.
As with any popular show, many romances have blossomed over the 13 seasons, but none have been as popular as the slow burn romance between Dean Winchester and his Guardian Angel, Castiel (also known as Cas). After years of fan speculation, Cas finally confessed his love for Dean in the show’s final season. After this most recent episode, many queer (For more information on the word queer and its proper, reclaimed use visit npr.org) fans were extremely frustrated by the poor representation and the writers killing of Cas immediatly after he comes out.
Junior Atticus Meyer, a casual fan of the show and active member of the LGBTQ+ community, weighed in on the show’s choice, saying that “they knew a majority of their audience shipped the two characters but used it to their advantage. 15 WHOLE SEASONS, 15 YEARS, and in the one episode Cas admits he loves Dean he dies, and Dean doesn’t even say it back. I don’t think Jensen, the actor who plays Dean, was comfortable because the acting was pretty bad too. It was a mess.”
This scene has been described as “queerbaiting,” which is a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBTQ representation (More information and the official definition can be found here). Many fans of the show are divided and confused on this issue. Queerbaiting generally refers to non-canon couples that are strongly hinted at, or LGBTQ+ characters that are never shown in a LGBTQ+ relationship. While Destiel has been announced as canon, the writers have copped out of actually depicting a healthy gay relationship by killing off Cas. Supernatural may not match the original definition of queerbaiting, many fans still count it as a form of queerbaiting.
So why is queerbaiting harmful? Many fans are simply happy to see their favorite couple become canon. However, this depiction can still create a harmful image of LGBTQ+ relationships that large companies get to make profit off of. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, these relationships are more harmful than helpful. For me personally, coming out was a very difficult experience because I didn’t know anyone like me. By portraying LGBTQ+ characters poorly, it sends a toxic message to young teens that LGBTQ+ relationships are not ideal. By continuing to spread this idea, we are keeping the LGBTQ+ community and its members from being able to consider themselves normal. Representation in all forms matters, but good representation is especially important for young teens looking to the media as a safe place.